Below you will find the five most common career pathways taken by Cincinnati Law graduates. There are a number of things to consider when determining your personal career path. You will want to reflect on the area of law you most enjoy, your geographic limitations, financial and time commitments, and finally, the type of setting in which you work best. After familiarizing yourself with the different types of careers listed below, be sure to consult our career pathways chart – available in the CPD, which will map out the steps you should be taking to acquire your dream job!
Federal, state, and local governments provide a wealth of employment opportunities for lawyers. In fact, the federal government is the single largest employer of attorneys. Because of the many areas of operation, a government job can provide an attorney with experience in civil, criminal, and administrative law in agencies across the country.
Many federal agencies recruit entry level attorneys through an Honors Program for graduating third year students and summer internships for second year students. Deadlines to apply begin in September. If you have an interest in a specific agency or department and would like to know the details of their hiring process, it is best to contact the agency directly. While the CPD will frequently send emails or post information regarding job openings in government agencies, obtaining a government job is a proactive process.
In addition to housing federal agencies, Cincinnati is also home to a number of state and local government agencies. Many of our graduates report receiving full-time job offers at the state, county, and city level after participating in the Legal Externship (please link here to the Legal Externship page) program during law school. An externship is an excellent way to get your foot in the door by providing both the student and the employer with a semester-long interview.
Either directly from law school or after a few years of practice, a number of Cincinnati Law graduates begin careers in corporate legal departments across the country. In-house jobs are highly coveted because these attorneys get to experience the thrill of practicing law without worrying about billable hours. Similarly, some Cincinnati Law graduates choose to use their law degree as a secondary tool to bolster their business careers.
Since many corporate and in-house jobs require prior work experience, consider beginning your career in a corporate law firm or with a government agency. Similarly, take advantage of our Legal Externship program for exposure to the corporate environment.
Many corporations have web pages describing their practices. Do a general internet search to connect with the company's website and navigate through to learn more about the organization and its legal hiring practices.
Some other good places to find information about corporations and corporate jobs include:
Of the 1 million attorneys in the United States, over 75% are in private practice. Similarly, this is where most Cincinnati Law graduates begin their practice, particularly in law firms of 2-10 attorneys. Private practice encompasses jobs in small, medium, large and solo law firms. Working for a law firm during the summer or after graduation is an excellent opportunity to enhance your research and writing skills, learn practical lawyering skills, and gain exposure to a wide variety of practice areas.
In the fall, medium and large sized law firms conduct on-campus interviews (OCI) with second and third year students. Additionally, those employers not able to visit the College of Law frequently request resumes from interested students. The CPD advises students of these opportunities via the Symplicity system.
Students are eligible to apply for law firm jobs after December 1 of their first year of law school. In the spring, a few employers will visit campus to interview first year students and frequently request resumes for all class years through the end of the spring semester and into the summer.
What Resources are Available on the Internet?
Many firms have web pages describing their practices, which you can locate through a general internet search. Some other good places to find information on law firms and individual attorneys include:
Judicial clerkships are among the most prestigious and competitive employment opportunities available to recent graduates. Usually lasting one to two years, a judicial clerkship is an excellent way to bridge the gap between law school and the practice of law. Clerks at all court levels obtain unparalleled access to and knowledge about the judicial process. Additionally, a judicial clerk is exposed to a wide array of legal issues and is able to make a hands-on contribution to the judicial decision-making process. This experience and perspective is attractive to future legal employers who hire former judicial clerks for their significant legal knowledge, insider view of the court system, and ability to view cases from the court's perspective. A judicial clerkship can provide a significant edge in the legal job market not only because of increased knowledge of the law and court system, but because of the valuable contacts and personal relationships developed during the clerkship experience.
There are no strict guidelines regarding the minimum qualifications for judicial clerks. In general, though, the positions are competitive and thus require students who have succeeded in law school, in college, and/or in the work field. Class rank in the top quarter is usually necessary for federal clerkships. The criteria for state clerkships and specialty federal clerkships are frequently less "grade sensitive," especially for candidates with outstanding recommendations and strong writing skills. Information on the judicial clerkship hiring process can be found in the CPD’s Judicial Clerkship Handbook found in the Document Library on Symplicity.
Providing legal services to government and public interest organizations is the foundation of the legal profession. A broad definition of public interest work includes public service and government sector work as well as traditional public interest jobs. Typically, public interest lawyers represent people and issues that might otherwise lack meaningful representation in the legal system. The efforts of public interest lawyers address social change through individual cases as well as on a policy level. The public interest bar is composed of experts in differing types of advocacy as well as substantive areas of law. Some public interest lawyers engage in direct service work for individual clients, others in policy-oriented impact litigation or community organizing. Regardless of the setting, lawyers in this field agree that using their law degrees to make a difference in the community is personally fulfilling.
The term Fellowship covers a broad expanse of programs, including programs that are specifically for lawyers and law students. There are also several types of fellowships regularly sought by lawyers and law students. The basic types are: Organization-based, Project-based and Firm-sponsored. Post-graduate fellowships are highly competitive and provide invaluable experience. The application process for fellowships begins as early as the summer after the 2L year.
A nonprofit group administers an organization-based fellowship, and the fellow receives a stipend while working for the organization. All aspects of the fellowship, from scope of work to duration and salary are determined by the organization. Applications are made directly to the organization sponsoring the fellowship and choices are made by that organization without any outside influences. These are basically temporary jobs for law graduates or attorneys with little experience in a practice area.
Project-based fellowships are usually set up by foundations to develop a specific project that serves the purposes of a sponsoring nonprofit organization. The funding organization will put limitations on the projects they will fund, or the particular issues or types of projects they back. The fellowship will have a finite term and the fellow will be responsible for finding continuing funding for the project. Suitability and qualifications for this type of fellowship are linked to the sponsoring organization’s ability to support and house the project, project feasibility and the purported benefit.
Firm-sponsored fellowships have been developed by firms to fulfill the needs of public interest law. The firm pays the fellow for a period of time spent doing public interest work. This can work in a variety of ways: with the fellow working for a public interest organization for a fixed period of time without any further commitment to work for the firm; a fellow works only on pro bono matters, but exclusively at the sponsoring firm; a fellow may be hired by a "private public interest firm" as an entry level associate for a specific period of time, often without a promise for full time work.